such as "Introduction", "Conclusion"..etc
Fungi can cause a number of life-threatening diseases but they also
are becoming increasingly useful to science and manufacturing every
year. However, many people, scientists among them, are largely unaware
of the roles fungi play in the world around us. Research on fungi and
fungal diseases are seriously neglected as a result – a situation with
grave negative repercussions for human health, agriculture, and the
environment-- according to The Fungal Kingdom: Diverse and Essential
Roles in Earth's Ecosystem, a new report from the American Academy
The report is the product of a colloquium convened by the
Academy in November, 2007, where experts in mycology, medicine, plant
pathogens, and ecology discussed the current state of research in
mycology and compiled a list of specific recommendations for future
"The average person is at risk for several fungal diseases, from
toenail infections to athlete's foot to life threatening systemic
infections," says Arturo Casadevall of the Albert Einstein College of
Medicine and one of the co-chairs of the colloquium. "Fungi may also
predispose people to asthma and allergic diseases," says Casadevall.
Despite the frequency of fungal infections, according to the report they
are relatively understudied, making fungal infections difficult to
diagnose and treat. When faced with an undiagnosed fungal infection,
doctors are forced to treat their patient without a firm grasp of which
drugs will work and which drugs will only cost the patient valuable
But fungi are more than just a medical problem: as the cause of
more than half of all plant diseases, fungi are also an expensive drain
on agriculture. The economic repercussions of managing fungal pathogens
on crops – the money and effort spent, the numerous pesticide
applications, the consequences of these applications for surface water
and soil quality, and the impacts on crop yields – are extraordinary.
In the environment, fungi are not seen as a liability but as an
integral part of their ecosystems They break down dead plants and
animals (organic matter) into the building blocks plants need for growth
and they engage in beneficial symbiotic relationships with plants, all
functions necessary for maintaining healthy ecosystems. When an
ecosystem is disturbed, fungi can behave in unexpected and often
destructive ways, as in the case of the black mold that is overrunning
the areas surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine and
outbreaks of coral bleaching that are destroying coral reefs.
Scientists still do not understand fungi well enough to predict how
these organisms will behave when their environment is disturbed.
Industry and food manufacturing benefit in many ways from the
work fungi do. "Fungi are workhorses for research and biotechnology,"
according to Joseph Heitman of the Duke University Medical Center, the
other co-chair of the colloquium. "Both the hepatitis B vaccine and
Gardasil (the vaccine for papilloma virus) are produced in yeast," he
The importance of fungi to human health, agriculture, the
environment, and industry demands that we gain a better understanding of
these organisms. Some of the report's key recommendations include:
There is a serious lack of scientific data to support any stance with
respect to indoor mold toxicity or remediation. More effort should be
devoted to testing and long-term monitoring of mold contamination and
human health in New Orleans and other areas flooded by Hurricane
Katrina. Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina provide natural
laboratories for understanding how fungi respond to disturbance and the
subsequent impacts they have on human health.
Researchers involved with fungi must focus efforts on developing a
comprehensive fungal genomics database in order to make the vast
quantities of sequence data more available and to enable the field to
fully capitalize on the promise of genomics.
Public health agencies should implement formal programs to report
cases, track disease progress, and design interventions in outbreaks of
fungal disease. The lack of reporting and tracking systems has made it
difficult to control the spread of fungal pathogens, because good
epidemiological data on the scope of infection is usually not available.
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